Well. Here we are, at last. It’s been a journey covering two months, from tedium to anticlimax, from the occasional high to the more frequent low, but now, at last, the Twilight Saga is over. I considered rambling my thoughts for Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer, in the same way I did for Eclipse, but then, to my shock and horror, found some parts of the novel were actually redeemable. Not very redeemable. But a bit. So I decided to go with a full review – or at least, to be as structured as my reviews ever are. Breaking Dawn is split into three separate ‘books’, two from Bella’s perspective and one from Jacob’s. Considering my vastly differing reactions to each section, breaking the review up by ‘book’ seems the most apporiate way to discuss the novel.
I’m just going to say it: reading these 150 pages or so almost caused me to lose my faith in literature. Singlehandedly, this section convinced me to never read a book/series out of plain curiosity ever again in my life. Sorry, 50 Shades! In this book the ‘events’ of Bella and Edward’s wedding and honeymoon are explored. And that’s it. The wedding itself only covers, I can’t remember, about 2 pages, with the reception perhaps another 10 for when the werewolves arrive and get angsty and stuff. The rest is spent either preparing for the wedding and on the honeymoon. The honeymoon chapters, where Bella and Edward retreat to ‘Ilse Esme’, this bizarre island off the coast of Brazil which has suddenly been introduced. These chapters refused to end, despite my fervent wishes. Everything is described in intricate, mind-numbing detail – apart from the sex, where Meyer avoids as many details as possible. I’m not complaining.
Then, Bella gets pregnant. This is an interesting idea, although I’m not sure how it’s possible, and it determines the direction which the rest of the novel will take. Edward plans to kill it but Bella has suddenly developed an attachment for the monster growing inside her. I couldn’t comment on the nature of maternal instincts, but this doesn’t seem wise. Whatever her thoughts, I fail to be engaged in the ‘action’. This section’s most successful achievement is making a good case for contraception, although not one which could be applied to most couples.
The characters are all exactly the same as they’ve been in previous novels. Nothing new to comment on here.
I genuinely can’t think of anything else to say for Book 1. I finished reading Breaking Dawn a couple of weeks ago and have since tried to scrub it from my mind; this section was the first to go. Just as I’m on the brink of putting the book down, of giving up on a novel for the first time in many years, the narrator switches to Jacob and the book suddenly becomes original again. That’s the problem with this first section; it’s not only bad, but it’s repetitively, tediously bad. There is virtually no conflict. I don’t know whether Meyer planned this, but it was very well timed.
In transferring to Jacob’s perspective, the novel is injected with life once again. Perhaps still much more of a focus on his ‘feelings’ than a typical teenage boy would feel, Meyer has convincingly written from a male perspective. I’ve mostly forgotten how she wrote it so can’t say to what degree her writing style changes – I was mostly in awe of the fact something mildly interesting was happening – but I think there were a couple of noticeable differences. As a writer (well, amateur writer), I do appreciate the difficulties of writing in the first-person from just one character’s perspective, let alone two, although I would expect such a renowned and successful writer to be adept at this skill. I’ll take my lack of scorn and criticism whilst reading as evidence that she has at least partly mastered it.
By far, the most enjoyable feature of this Book of Jacob (sounds rather Biblical) is to see the werewolf pack mechanics up close. I can clearly imagine how, as the pack grows, the characters would begin to suffer from collective schizophrenia from all the thoughts of the other wolves chattering in their heads. The power struggle between Jacob and Sam, resulting in Jacob unwittingly creating his own pact between himself, Seth and Leah, is also one of the highlights of the book. In fact, the complex division of alliances is probably my favourite aspect – the Cullens are also split on their opinion of the baby, as Rosalie and Carlisle are against killing it and so protect Bella from Edward and the others. This is the kind of conflict the rest of the novel has so desperately needed! It really makes the reader wonder how it will be resolved.
Another genuinely interested fantasy element in the Twilight series is that of imprinting. I really respect and can relate to Jacob’s horror of the concept, that it takes control of the affected werewolves’ emotions and therefore their personalities by making them blindly in love, at first sight, with someone who could strengthen the genes. This is made worse by the fact that the subject is often a young child. I would certainly feel the same way.
Jacob and Leah’s exchanges, both of whom have been wounded by love (in Leah’s case, her boyfriend Sam imprinted on another woman and their relationship suddenly ended), can be touching at times. I would say that Leah is probably one of the more likeable characters in the series, in that she doesn’t actually irritate me at any moment. In fact, her snide bitterness makes a welcome contrast from the gooey, perfect lives the other characters experience far too frequently.
Watching Bella’s pregnancy from Jacob’s point of view adds to the sense of horror which is already extremely prevalent. The idea of being beaten from inside, of her baby kicking so much it gives her bruises and even cracks her ribs, is sickening – and also very effective. The only way to placate the baby is to feed Bella blood, which she drinks with a relish. This is truly skin-crawling stuff. However, Meyer never quite creates the right atmosphere, as these scenes tend to be mired in humour, inanities and dull characters, causing these wonderful horror concepts to never reach their full potential. And then Bella gives birth, a process which would have killed her if Edward had not performed a C-section with, uh, his teeth, and in doing so transforming Bella into a vampire. Rather yucky stuff.
The baby is carried out of the room, and at that moment Jacob takes a glance at it, imprinting instantly. Oh, dear.
Back to Bella’s perspective again. Oh well, an interesting protagonist was nice while it lasted. Although this is the new and improved vampire Bella, so we never quite return to honeymoon levels of tedium. It is fascinating to read Bella exploring her new powers and abilities as a vampire, although it’s a bit of a cop out that she avoids all of the bloodlust associated with newborn vampires. I suppose waiting years for her to gain self control would jar the novel’s pace more so than it has been already.
I am really disappointed that Jacob imprinted upon Edward and Bella’s daughter, who they named Renesmee. His resistance to the idea and his desire to maintain some control over his thoughts and actions are completely undermined. Suddenly he is completely in love, and happy, and no longer salivating over Bella and getting depressed about her being a vampire. In fact, he’s cool with it. I know there are fantasy elements at work, but this is sudden, lazy and feels wrong.
Actually, a large portion of this section (about half of the book) consists of everyone being happy. The feud with the werewolves vanished when Jacob imprinted, because there’s some ancient code forbidding them to attack the subject of a fellow werewolf’s imprint, or something. That’s another reason I hate imprinting in the series: it’s a plot device to remove each individual strand of conflict. The concept is fine, but Meyer uses it in ways to my distaste.
Then, suddenly, the action ramps up again. Alice has had a vision of the Volturi attacking and killing the entire coven, in response to a vampire called Irina witnessing Renesemee and mistaking her for one of the feared Immortal Children. This is a bit of a dull way for the threat to unfold, though it makes sense. She then suddenly departs with Jasper, presumably having abandoned the Cullens in despair although I just know they’ll be back later. Meyer does manage to craft an intricate mystery in their disappearances. Alice, through code, leads Bella to J. Jenks, a fabricator of identities, in order to implant the idea of letting Renesmee escape with Jacob if the battle with the Volturi goes badly. Giving this idea to Bella, whose mind Edward cannot see into, is a clever touch.
So, in order to stay alive, the Cullens gather together a band of ‘witnesses’, whose numbers are intended to make the Volturi halt, just for a moment, so they can realise that Renesmee is not an ‘Immortal Vampire Child’. From South America, from Transylvania (of course), from Ireland, from Alaska – from all over – vampires gather to testify for the Cullens. So much mythology can be gleamed from this gathering, although few of the vampires have had a lasting impact upon me and few of their names I can remember. I quite liked Alistair the hermit. Also of interest is the development of Bella’s powers, which is to shield herself and others from the powers of other vampires. Considering her only motivation previously has been to keep the people she loves alive, this feels fitting.
The battle lines are drawn, and the two sides converge. As Meyer points out on her website, in order to prevent the characters she loved from dying this conflict had to be one of the mind. That’s fine – a bit disappointing, but fine. The utilisation of various characters’ mental powers push the conflict back and forth, as Aro (well characterised again) and his Volturi associates, particularly Caius, try to find an excuse to kill the Cullens, who they perceive to be a threat. This is done well, and is surprisingly gripping. But it’s the final resolution which really, really pushed me over the edge and confirmed my hatred of this series. Alice and Jasper return, predictably, with some random, previously unmentioned hybrid vampire they found somewhere in the Amazon. Aro realises he no longer has a case and says, “oh well, let’s go home.” The Volturi return home. The conflict is over.
YOU CANNOT DO THAT! Has Meyer ever heard of a phrase called deus ex machina? She studied English Literature at university, so she has no excuse not to have. It literally means, “God from the machine”, where a plot is suddenly resolved by a factor pulled from out of the blue, and is a hated technique among literary circles. Occasionally it can work, although not often, and this certainly is not one of those times. The Volturi threat is not even resolved. They’re as close the series comes to having an antagonist, and they end the final book by going home?! No change in stance, likely to attempt another attack in the future… No. That’s just… No! I did not spend two months reading over 500,000 words for THIS.
The characters then proceed to live a normal life forever, or, at least, before the Volturi find a way of avoiding Alice and rip them to shreds. I look forward to when that happens. The novel does have a *somewhat* fitting ending when Bella, using her new-found powers, lets Edward into her thoughts. This moment of ultimate intimacy between the characters is the peak point of their relationship, and is a marginally satisfying way of ending the book, if such a thing is possible after the previous plot disasters.
Final rating: 5/10.
I will not miss this series.